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Editorial: OPEN has a responsibility to follow through

BY DI EDITORIAL BOARD | APRIL 10, 2014 5:00 AM

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Students walking on campus today may notice messages in the sidewalk. Though the chalk inscriptions are varied in their content, many instruct the reader to do one thing: vote. Specifically, that is, for the UI Student Government’s OPEN Party.

Running unopposed in the UISG Elections, the party is nonetheless trying to mobilize those on campus as the virtual ballot box opens. Encouraging students to vote in an uncontested race is a humorous proposition, and it’s unfortunate that there aren’t any competing visions for students to choose from. Yet the party does have admirable goals in its priorities for the coming year.

OPEN stands for Organize, Plan, Establish, Nurture, perhaps not the smoothest acronym components to roll off the tongue. But in light of protests against tone-deaf responses to sexual assault on campus by university administrators, the party’s moniker seems to highlight its priority of interaction with students on the party’s major standpoints.

OPEN presidential candidate Patrick Bartoski outlined the party’s areas of focus for the 2014-15 school year, including safety, sustainability, affordability, diversity, and advocacy.

“[OPEN] lays a basic idea for how we’re going to work through those areas,” he said.

Chief among OPEN’s concerns is safety, after 11 reported sexual assaults so far in the academic year. The party will look for possible improvements in programs such as Nite Ride and SafeRide, the latter of which was started by UISG in 2012 and is arguably less recognized. OPEN will have the challenge not only of making improvements to these programs but also making sure students are aware of them.

On sustainability, the party hopes to draw more students into the conversation in meeting the university’s goals, something that is easier said than done. Specifically, OPEN would create an advisory group to add a “new voice” to the decisions made using sustainability funds.

As for affordability, one of OPEN’s most promising proposals is to use legislation to force the university to add a list of required textbooks in course registration, giving students more time to look for the best prices instead of scrambling to buy materials in the week before classes start. In a twofold approach to college affordability, the party also hopes to increase financial literacy through education. This was also a focus of the previous administration, and time will tell if students are responsive to this kind of education.

One of the more unique priorities for OPEN is fostering a sense of advocacy among students. With a student delegation sent to the State Capitol each year, the future UISG government aims to encourage more to take an interest in state politics. Via efforts such as partnering with SCOPE to bring voter-registration drives to campus events, the party will take a crack at raising the student voter turnout rate. 

OPEN also has plans to improve campus diversity through the creation of a new certificate program for student organizations and broader outreach to international students.

Most of these are common threads among the policies of UISG contenders in recent years, so OPEN’s focus on these areas is of no surprise. Despite its emphasis on the issues, the party’s statements so far have left us with little in the way of concrete proposals to track. The group’s ambitions, lofty as they may be, come with easy promises to make in the time before taking office. Now, the impetus will be on OPEN to follow through.


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